NRF Forecasts A Strong 2015, But January Results Mixed

Retail sales will increase by 4.1 percent for the 2015 year, according to a forecast released on Feb. 12 by National Retail Federation, the Washington, D.C.–based retail trade group.

Business will be better compared with 2014, when retail sales for the year increased 3.5 percent, said Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist for the NRF.

“The economy appears to finally have gained some real traction, and after a somewhat turbulent 2014, we expect to see continued gains in economic activity in the year ahead,” Kleinhenz said. “While Americans are benefiting from a pickup in wages and jobs and gains in the U.S. stock market, economic slack has been reduced. We still, however, have a ways to go in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. There are a few wild cards that the retailers will need to keep an eye on, like global economic growth, energy prices and even inflation.”

Also supporting this relatively sunny forecast, Kleinhenz said that growth in the labor market should add between 220,000 to 230,000 new jobs each month. Also, the NRF stated that gains in equities and housing support the statement that financial health of American businesses and households is improving.

Consumer confidence is also increasing. In fact, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index announced that consumer confidence rose sharply in January, according to the Conference Board, the New York–based research group.

While the year began with good business forecasts, January’s business seemed mixed according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Overall retail sales dipped 0.8 percent, the department announced on Feb. 12.

However, the year started on a good note, according to Adrienne Yih-Tennant, an analyst for Janney Capital Markets. “Overall, January comp results were above expectations as favorable weather and ongoing (but improved) discounting helped drive traffic and sales,” she wrote in a recent research note. “We believe the deep discounting we have witnessed was successful in driving traffic and purging Fall/Holiday inventory. We believe the sector is positioned with very clean inventory exiting ’14 and bodes well for a clean start to ’15.”